Showing posts with label Africa Food Security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa Food Security. Show all posts

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Amb. Sanders June 11, 2014 U.S. Congress Testimony on Nigeria's Boko Haram Crisis & Chibook

Chairman Smith with
Ambassador Sanders
Following June 11, 2014
Hearing on Boko Haram

(Full Testimony Below)

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bass, and Members of the Subcommittee, I want to thank you for inviting me here today to testify before you. I just returned from Nigeria and was in country when the international community became more aware of the horrible kidnapping of 247 girls by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014. 

Honorable Members you have asked the panel today to discuss the ongoing crisis in Nigeria and there are several components to this issue, however, my remarks will be based on:

1.) My knowledge of the region, as I have been in every state in Nigeria, including travelling by road from Abuja through what is now Boko Haram’s current expanded territory of operation at least 4 times during my tenure there.

2.) I have been north of Maiduguri also by road in some of the most desolate areas of the world I have been in,  and I have served in Sudan by comparison;

3.) What I know of Boko Haram before and since its vicious resurgence, noting that it has been in existence since the late 1990s; and,

4.) My conversations and first hand observations while on my recent trip to Nigeria.  

With that backdrop, I will address what I understand are the Committees principal concerns for holding this hearing today:

      1.) The Security Environment and Boko Haram, and areas of possible additional assistance;

       2.) Why Boko Haram was not initially considered a Foreign Terrorist Organization, FTO; and then;

      3.) Address what I am hearing from my contacts on Chibook/Chibok, and concerns there.

The Nigerian Security Services in the Face of Boko Haram:
Current Nigerian security services have never experienced anything like what they are facing with Boko Haram today. They need to understand that Boko Haram is unlike the Niger Delta conflict and they need to toss out that play book as regards to this conflict. Boko Haram is executing asymmetrical warfare, and for the most part this is outside of the framework of the security forces and their capability to effectively respond. The Nigerian troops that have been in recent conflicts in northern Mali, including the initial Nigerian Force Commander, and those troops who served in Darfur probably are the few that have had the closest experience in asymmetrical warfare;

--Thus, the existing challenges in some of the security structures are more evident now as they are finding it difficult to cope with the threat.  It is good that Nigeria has accepted international assistance to begin to address some of these structural challenges and gaps in capability. From my time on the ground, they have always had challenges in the following areas:

--Airlift - Airlift is key to troop rotation as I heard reports of PTSD while I was there; it is important because of the distances and tough road travel in the Northeast; and it is important because it will help them react faster to the changing situation on the ground as they try to cover more than 60,000 square miles of territory about the size of Georgia or Wisconsin
--Additional materiel, especially mobile communication equipment, vehicles, technology-based bomb detection equipment (what saw in many places was rudimentary at best); and, improved control over its porous borders;
--Improved military planning, logistics, equipment, and supplies, including sufficient spare parts, and fuel);

--Expand its small special forces unit, and its 24/7 counter terrorism (CT) center (both began to be stood up while I was there);
--Establishing a satellite CT center closer to the Northeast region so information doesn’t take so long to react to or be analyzed;

--More Rapid Response Forces or what we call mobile units, and probably more outposts;
-- Security Service personnel and resources are both stretched thin, Realignment is needed to better address the current threat;

-- Improvement in strategic communications and review of existing strategic communications approaches, because what they have now is not working internally or externally with affected communities, particularly with the families of the missing girls.

-- I would suggest a liaison committee led by someone respected for their human rights values that engages with the families and keeps them informed. Not someone who is a press spokesperson, but someone who is an advocate, and can avoid the Malaysia flight MH370 fiasco with the families.

I lectured as a Visiting Scholar last year at Nigeria’s Defense College and talked about the must-do things the security forces needed to do to build better relations and respond more quickly to the affected communities.

I traveled through Kano last month by road on my way to visit an agricultural project I am involved with in the Northwest. There were checkpoints all along the way, anywhere from 30-to-50 kilometers apart. I did not see the ability to communicate between most checkpoints. I understand that in the Northeast this is more acute as distances between some checkpoints are greater, adding to what we already know:  That information is not reacted to in timely or effective manner. 
I am not excusing the poor responses and reaction to date. I am just providing recommendations from a strategic perspective of things that can be and need to be addressed right now as I would hope the assistance packages for Nigeria are including.
The Long War, The Long Conflict:

Nigeria is at the beginning of a long war or long conflict, and they have to realize this. This is no longer a localized conflict or insurgency. There is no easy fix and every attack in response to Boko Haram cannot be viewed a death knell blow to it – a long range security framework to this terrorist threats is what is needed. The security services need to regroup, re-approach, and re-address in order to begin to get off their heels on the defensive and get on an aggressive offense.  This has not happened yet, and Boko Haram has not only succeeded in terrorizing 60,000 square miles of territory, but also as evident with the late April 2014 attacks, they have the ability to reach locations just 15 kilometers outside of Abuja, either with sleepers cells or with bombs getting past checkpoints. 

Right now the security services are out gunned, and out strategically played. One thing I also want to put into the mix on which I am not sure there has been much focus is the language differences. Most of the security forces in the Northeast are Hausa-speaking, while the majority of the village population in Borno are Kanuri speakers. Just like the US military had to ramp up on its Arabic speakers for Iraqi, the Nigerian military will need to increase its Kanuri speakers in order to more effectively engage with the local population there.
I mention this as part of the overall issue of addressing and reframing of strategic communication and outreach to the villages.
My next comment will be an unpopular thing to hear for many, but there are people and elements in the Nigerian military that are committed and serious, but they are under-supported and need resources. This does not dilute the issues of the very real challenges for the security forces and reports in the past of corruption and failure to respond. That being said, I had several rank and file security service members come up to me on this last trip to say: “Madame you know some of us, you know we are not all bad, we do our jobs for our country. Tell people this Madame; I said I would.” 

I highlight this to underscore who is going to fight this war, this conflict if it is not the Nigerian security forces, along with assistance from the international community. They are the vanguard of this conflict, so we need to help them pull up their boots straps as an institution to address any challenges they might have to get it together because if the entire security structure becomes demoralized who is going to fight this conflict.
There have already reportedly been 1-2 incidents where military units allegedly have shown their frustration by shooting at commanders’ convoys – one report happen while I was still in Nigeria.

Relationship with Neighboring Intelligent Services:
Nigeria’s neighbors and human intelligence from villagers in Nigeria and neighboring countries will be critical elements of fighting this war, this conflict. There has to be better control of the porous borders and cooperation; P-3 surveillance planes can assist with this, but in the end on-ground human intelligence (or humint) is going to be key. Despite the May 2014 Paris conference with Nigeria and its neighbors, a trust issue remains among them on sharing intelligence.  So we need to help build trust among those services as well.

Food Security:
Boko Haram has been so brutal that several villages and markets have just disappeared, which means food is becoming scare as planting and commerce has ceased. The international community needs to keep an eye on the food security situation as food shortages could become an issue down the line.

Designation of Boko Haram as Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO):   
The other question I understood the Committee is interested in is why Boko Haram was not named earlier as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). As I said earlier, Boko Haram has been around since the late 1990s, and was more commonly referred to before (in its earlier form) as the Nigerian Taliban. Prior to the last four years it executed localized sabotage, attacked police stations, and recruited young people into the group, but no kidnapping. Evidence of some Boko Haram contacts with AQIM started to surface about 9 months after (early 2010) the extrajudicial killing of its then-leader Muhammad Yusef and his key lieutenant Al Haji Buji Foi in July 2009; this was shared with the then-government.

I was in Nigeria when Yusuf was captured and killed almost before the cameras by the Nigerian Police. From early 2010 until August 2011, almost a full year there was a lull with some small acts, and again localized. The morphing of Boko Haram to using Al-Qaeda or AQIM-like tactics to achieve the goal of establishing an Islamic Extremist Caliphate began really surfacing in mid-2011 with the bombing of the UNHeadquarters in Abuja in August 2011, and since then Boko Haram has continually gotten more expansive in both its reach, and brutality from 2012-2014.
I will expect disagreements on this, but earlier than August 2011 before it bombed the UN Headquarters in Abuja, Boko Haram, in my view, would not have met the third leg of the cited FTO definition in the law:

1. It must be a foreign organization;
2. It must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in several sections off the Immigration and Nationality and Foreign Relations Authorization Acts (Sections 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. §1182(a) (3)(B), or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d) (2), or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism); and,

3. Its terrorists activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.

The Abuja UN Headquarters bombing showed the: reach; capability, brutality, of Boko Haram and its use of Al-Qaeda inspired tactics; underscoring that all nationals were at risk. The UN HQ is right around the corner from the US Embassy, and when I was there I could see the building from my office window.  

First my heart goes out to the families and the missing girls wherever they might be as I know they are suffering, scared, and afraid. In Paris Monday there was a Global Conference onWomen, and one of the things said there regarding the Chibook girls is that this tragedy is the epitome in dehumanization that girls do not have the right to control their own fate; their education and who they might choose to marry.
Despite reports out of Nigeria, I do not think that most/most of the girls have been in Nigeria for a long time. We have no idea how long the videos being shown were taken. And, these terrorists groups learn from each other, and Boko Haram is nothing but strategic. Therefore, I think it is unlikely that most (maybe not all) the girls have been put into smaller groups and taken across the borders to Chad and Cameroon, or elsewhere, or kept in smaller groups or singular in Nigeria. So, again the human intelligence factor is going to be critical to hopefully finding some of them.

I also do not want us to forget that from January-March 2014 young girls were being kidnapped, killed, terrorized and brutalized by Boko Haram. Yesterday, 20 more women were reported kidnapped near Chibook. During January-March 2014, young girls were burned to death in their dorms; others kidnapped, divided up based on their physical maturity level, and those who showed signs of puberty had their throats cut – all of these actions show that Boko Haram’s Shekerau is acting on one of his stated goals that he would: make the mothers and daughters of Nigeria suffer in revenge for the capture of some of Boko Haram’s families members by the Nigerian security forces.

I highlight all of these things to underscore that we as the international community cannot be sporadic on these horrible human rights violations and brutality of young girls. We must do all we can to protect the young women in the North.  A few recommendations on human side of this issue, just in case the current assistance packages are not including these things:
My recommendations are mostly directed at protecting and assisting the young girls who escaped, their families, and the families of those who are still missing:

1.) More trauma and grief counseling for families and the returned girls;

2.) Liaison committee lead by someone respected for their human rights values that can help keep the families informed to avoid the Malaysian MH370 family relations issues;

3.) Ensure that the girls that have returned and their families are protected so they don’t become victims again -- as am sure Boko Haram is watching what happens with them. Even if we protect their faces, this doesn’t mean that Boko Haram elements cannot figure out who they are, so we need to be careful with their safety;

4.) President Jonathan should meet with the families, even if it is not in Chibook/Chibok;

5.) And, I am not making an apples and oranges comparison necessarily, but if the world/international community could mobilize tons of financial, technical, human resources to try to find the missing Malaysia plane MH 370 of 239 people, it can mobilize the same to find the 247 girls no matter in what country they are located. 
6.) Things such as mistrust among neighboring countries in sharing intelligence must take a back seat. 
I do see an array of assistance, but nowhere near the level of mobilization that is probably needed by the entire international community – full time, all the time.

Thank You Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bass and Members of the Subcommittee


*As delivered to The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations, June 11, 2014, 2:30pm


A FEEEDS Series BlogSpot




Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sanders Testifies Before US Congress on Central Africa Republic

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee, I want to thank you for including me on this panel on the situation in the Central Africa Republic (CAR), and issue that I am following very closely. I have lived in and work on Central African regional issues both when I was a Director for Africa at the National Security Council and also when I was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Congo. The latter time was when former CAR President Bozizé first came to power; this was also a time of great conflict and human suffering in CAR. The question the Committee is seeking views on today, however, is whether or not the Central African Republic is already in the throes of a pre-genocide atmosphere or already embroiled in genocide. My remarks will address this and other elements that might be important to consider as we work together as the international community to try to stem the tide of violence and human suffering in CAR.

I first want to say something about the sheer devastation of the humanitarian crisis, having been up on the border area many times between Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Republic of Congo in years past, and in fact there remain refugees there from earlier CAR conflicts. For more than a decade instability has reigned in CAR caused by internal issues which have never been fully resolved – socially, politically, and ethnically – keeping the country environment unstable, and the people of the CAR at the mercy of the next wave of violence. Because of the continued instability and not being on the radar screen of the international community for more than a decade until the rise of the Seleka in December 2012, the events since then have set in motion two things: revenge killing by the anti-balaka Christian groups, which spawned into sectarian violence.

In addition over the last several days we are hearing unconfirmed reports of what I have been calling “reverse revenge killings” reportedly from armed Muslim militias or former Seleka running raids from Muslim enclaves in the North into nearby towns such as attacking two days ago a hospital, and killing Christians, and workers with Medicine San Frontier, near the border with Chad. These enclaves only exist because Muslims have been forced to run from sectarian violence directed at them by the anti-Balaka Christian groups. Anti-balaka groups also are preventing those Christians who want to live in peace with their Muslim neighbors from doing so.

Therefore, what we have, as you know, are the following:
  • Sectarian violence;Segregated country along Christian-Muslim lines;
  • Large numbers of displaced person, afraid and facing hunger
  • Attacks on convoys evacuating people of either religious groups
  • Looming potential for famine and further spread of disease as neither planting or harvesting season has or will take place in the violent environment
  • Continued impunity of current and past leaders and perpetrators of violence and crimes against civilians,  including former Seleka leader Djtodia, former president Bozize, and anti-Balaka Christian leaders as well as Muslim leaders who are perpetrating crimes against humanity

These are elements that could possibly lead down the road to something we have not seen before: A two-way genocide as each group, Muslim and Christians, impose horrendous revenge and “reverse revenge” killing upon each other.

If we allow this to happen this will be a new challenge for the country and international community on top of the already critical humanitarian crisis with thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP’s) already on the umbrella of the airport as it is the only place they feel remotely safe.

Thus, what can be suggested as the way forward? I recognize that the Administration is working full time on the humanitarian crisis with internally displaced person, but other donors also need to step up and fulfill pledges to provide assistance. The 2,000 French troops and the 5,000 African Union troops of MISCA as well as the 150 EU troops who have just arrived should all be commended, but also we need to double down on ensuring that their troops are not seen to support one religious group over another.

Having served in government for many years, I also recognize the time line needed to get the full complement of the 12,000-person UN Peace Keeping Mission in by September 2014 and that every effort is being made to advance this. But, the reality may get ahead of their arrival – and, we can see this now if we are entering a new phase of reverse revenge killings by Muslim militia. We need to consider asking the UN to also request police units from contributing countries to be added to the UN force so that areas were violence have ebbed and flowed can move from fragile stability to more permanent communities of stability.

Thus, as we balance this triplex of sectarian violence/revenge killings, the IDP humanitarian crisis, and looming famine we may need to jump now to concurrently work with the transition government to setup Peace Commission in rural areas; current religious enclaves; and, in Bangui because without a release valve for people to vent and articulate both their fear and hatred; stem their desire to revenge kill for atrocities done to them or their families, and address the overall environment of crimes against humanity we are likely at the beginning of seeing the current de facto segregation of CAR move into something worse - such as a two-way genocide the likes of which we have not seen before. The potential is there.

In general peace or reconciliation commissions such as in Sierra Leone, South Africa, and even the communal ones in Rwanda began in after peace – or at least fragile stability - had been restored, or in the case of South Africa when apartheid had been abolished. I am not sure we can wait for that phase in CAR. The triplex of issues we see today may prohibit reaching an end to violence and atrocities unless some release value for the hatred and disregard for humanity by the militia groups on both sides is addressed concurrently in the present environment.  I recognize that many NGO groups are working to assist with workshops and reconciliation programs. But, what I am suggesting is also looking at what traditional methods of reconciliation are used in village communities and among various CAR ethnic groups, along the lines of the framework of what Rwanda used - local traditional solution to local traditional healing.  This is the only way that sustainable peace can be maintained -- if each community can find a way to forgive each other. Of course the full healing process will take generations, but we have to start some where. In addition, I go back to the issue of impunity of leadership being addressed and using institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) to do so as a beginning.  If the local population cannot see that leaders are brought to justice how can we expect them to have faith in peace and reconciliation efforts on the ground, or for those to be sustainable.

Although this is not directly part of the Committee’s question today, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this issue having served as U.S. Ambassador also in Nigeria when the resurgence of Boko Haram happened. Events like we see in CAR, although we might think it cannot get worse, it can. They can spirally even more out of control so quickly, so fast. Thus, I think we need to be mindful that there is the potential for untoward groups to come into CAR and take advantage of the environment and the segregated environment of Muslims and Christians – not only fueling more hatred and violence, but also bringing with them more violent method such as terrorist tactics. I am specifically thinking of fundamentalist groups who could come in to provide Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist training to help advance the mission of revenge and reverse revenge killings. This could happen on either side of the religious divide, not just within the Muslim segregated enclaves but also within segregated Christian segregated communities that now exist since the negative atmosphere of hatred and violent pay-back is the order of the day. We need to pay attention to this and seek to work as much as possible within these enclaves to not only distribute much-needed food, but find ways with these groups to create the space for the revenge killings to end on both sides.

Again, I want to thank the Subcommittee for allowing me to share these views, and I stand ready to answer any of your questions

*revised and extended remarks

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations by *Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders (ret), CEO FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative, May 1, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FEEEDS & Operation HOPE Co-Host CSO Panel @ 2014 World Bank Spring Meetings

Press Release

FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative & Operation HOPE

Co-Hosting Key 2014 World Bank Civil Society Forum

 Focus: New Technologies & Financial Literacy Tools for Global At-Risk Communities
Dr. Sanders, Former Surgeon-Gen Benjamin,
OperationHOPE Govt Affairs VP Roscoe, CSO panelists
Washington, DC, April 8, 2014  -  The FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and Operation HOPE will co-host a Civil Society Workshop  on Saturday, April 12, 2014, from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm under the auspices of the World Bank's 2014 Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C. The joint session, entitled “Agile Innovation and Technology: Lessons From the Developing World,” is FEEEDS first co-hosting opportunity alongside the world renown NGO Operation HOPE, which leads the way on implementing financial literacy programs and tools for at-risk communities world-wide.

The FEEEDS-Operation HOPE session will bring together leading subject matter experts to highlight new technologies, which FEEEDS CEO Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders calls "agile," and unique programs being used to address education and poverty, while Operation HOPE will highlight  its ground-breaking financial literacy projects and tools from business in a box, to banking on our future.  Co-Host, FEEEDS CEO Ambassador Robin Sanders, and Operation HOPE Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jena Roscoe, will also provide key presentations on the role that young people can play in changing the world's wealth inequalities.  Ambassador Sanders will kick off the session with a presentation examining Africa’s Youth Bulge as an asset to economic development for the region, while Ms. Roscoe will present the latest financial literacy tools that Operation HOPE has launched to encourage financial well-being for young people, encourage entrepreneurship, particularly its 5117 project with the goal of changing the financial lives of 5 million at-risk youth.

Other speakers will highlight ways to better address development, best practices to overcome conflict, and the elements of leadership that are vital for progress in the 21st Century. This workshop, conducted under the auspices of the World Bank 2014 Spring meetings, is inspired by the work that all of the committed activists who focus on development and making the world a more inclusive place for everyone, particularly the next generation.
Other panelists include Bill Knapp, Manager African Technologies in Education – a FEEEDS Strategic Partner, Patricia McCants, Founder, African Diaspora Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Ditu Kasuyi, UFSC International, Advisory Board Chair & International President Emeritus, and  James H. Parks, Founder, The Parksonian Institute & Advisor SHADOKA.
The FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative focus on food security, education, environment, economic, development, and self-help projects (The FEEEDS pillars), particularly in Africa, and also provides business solutions in this areas. It supports a range of agricultural, educational, and affordable housing projects, and  also provides business solutions in these areas. For more on FEEEDS go to, or

Operation HOPE hosts an annual Global Financial Dignity Summit, 
in November and welcomes global citizens focused on financial inclusion, dignity, and capability initiatives to attend.  To learn more about Operation HOPE Initiatives, please review our website:


Friday, August 17, 2012

Africa @ the Crossroads: Things are Changing, but Challenges Remain

Africa at the Crossroads  Technology and global political pressure have changed the landscape of African activism and youth-led change are on the rise. Joining Insight to discuss how Africa's youth is changing the continent is former US ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Renee Sanders. She is delivering the keynote address Friday at Sacramento State University's 21st Annual African/African Diaspora Conference: Africa at the Crossroads: Revolution, Democracy, Youth empowerment, Social media and Non-Violence.

click here to listen to NPR interview w/Ambassador Sanders in Sacremento or
download link

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nigeria's Agricultural Agenda - Fixing both the Commodity & Financing Value Chains in Agriculture


As a result of presentations recently on Nigeria's Agricultural Transformation Agenda by senior members of the Nigeria Government, the private sector, and international institutions at both Corporate Council on Africa event and the annual meetings of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, clearly there are two value chain dimensions for Nigeria's agricultural sector:

-- The commodity-structure-productivity and policy framework under the Ministry of Agriculture; and,

-- The need to fix the financing value chain - meaning such things as getting Nigerian Banks to not only lend to farmers, but understand farming needs, especially the small farm holder, and improving the insurance regulatory framework. The country's Central Bank is leading the way on reframing the agricultural finance issues.

These two comprehensive value chains (commodity-productivity development & financing) have a symbiotic relationship - both need to improve in order for the agricultural sector to not only transform, but also to provide the growth potential for the country and for the West Africa Region writ large. Both the Ministry of Agriculture and Nigeria's Central Bank have recognized the pivotal linkage of these two value chain issues, and have put forces together to change the negative paradigms of the last 30 years in the country's agriculture sector. Key efforts include unlocking more than $3 billion in potential financing through several innovative programs such as the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending Program (NIRL Program); incentives and initiatives for women farmers; innovative SME development in the agricultural sector, and credit and financing for small farm holders. In addition there is an effort to ensure that there are "agricultural desks" at Nigerian Banks, and that these banks also increase the number of women in senior leadership positions by 40 per cent. The Bank of Industry, an arm of Nigeria's Ministry of Trade, is in partnership with both the Central Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture and pushes for greater support for women farmers, women cooperatives, financing for women, and SME development. The flip side of course is to work with farmers so that they too see agriculture as a business.

International institutions like the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has also stepped up its focus on agriculture as it recently announced an increase of $3.5-4 billion in 2012 for sub-Saharan Africa (up from $2.7 billion in 2011) -- a good portion of this reportedly will be focused on agricultural projects. Infrastructure is the other key area of focus for these funds, along with transportation, food storage, and technology. Banks like Standard Charter is also pioneering with risk insurance for farmers and better credit terms.

This is all good news for Nigeria and for to the other 15 nations in West Africa region. Why? Because if Nigeria can transform its agricultural sector (fixing the commodity-productivity value chain as well as the financing value-chain), this can spur greater sub-regional trade (intra-Africa trade is only about 10 per cent of exports, see; and, more economic growth for a sub-region with one of the Continent’s and world’s largest and youngest populations. We have all heard the projections that Africa will likely reach the 2 billion person mark at the same time we come close to reaching mid-Century, with one-third of the population reportedly being under the age of 30.

Here is another figure to ponder for West Africa. There are roughly 600 million people living in that sub-region today who are under the age of 30 and about 65 per cent of those work in subsistence agriculture ( Last reports had Nigeria's youth numbers hovering around 75 million and counting. Thus, there is a demographic importance (the youth bulge) to improving agriculture in addition to the common sense driven needs of: spurring economic growth; improving trade, and increasing GDP. I have written before about Africa's youth needing to become the world's next leading farmers as well as the importance of the region becoming the next global bread basket ( . (FYI: Africa and Latin America are the two areas of the world with the most remaining arable land and water resources). More and more this is being borne out by not only the demographic facts, but certainly the reframing and resurgence in focus by many African government, international institutions, and the African and foreign private sectors on the fundamental importance of fixing agriculture's two value chain issues.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sub Saharan Africa: Raising Its Profile on Global Food Security Issues – Part One

Part of the FEEEDS™ series

Can sub Saharan Africa be the next bread basket for the world, helping to address global food security issues? The answer is yes; the challenge is how. Sub Saharan Africa and the rest of the developing world have a key role to play in leading, designing, deciding, and shaping food security policy for the coming decades. Why? Because of several key indicators that should not be either underestimated or overlooked. For sub Saharan Africa the indicators that are the most important to focus on are: its population size and youth bulge; its ability to manage its water resources; and, its available arable and cultivated land. Looking at the indicators of population, economic growth, water and land use – what I like to call key impact indicators on food availability – sub Saharan Africa has an opportunity to do things differently earlier on its development and modernization life, something that few other world regions have today outside of Latin America.* Africa should be one of the leading regions in shaping global food security policies and feeding the future instead of others shaping it for Africa. Developing practical, integrative and more small scale solutions for agricultural inputs and outputs, farming, and for managing both land and water resources -- will help Africa provide for future generations on the Continent and elsewhere (

A closer look at the key impact indicator of population and practical, innovative and integrative solutions below will demonstrate why Africa should raise its profile and be a leading voice and how global food security policy unfolds (the impact indicators of water and land will be addressed in a separate blogspot):

Sub Saharan Africa’s Young Population – Future Farmers

Who are the next generations of farmers and where are they going to come from?

Sub Saharan Africa’s population is young, with more than half of the people living on the Continent under the age of 25. With current continent-wide population growth rates averaging 2.45 and estimated to remain on that level up through 2050 (, Africa is on track to be home to 1.9 million people by 2050. In addition, although Africa is the third largest continent, it is reportedly the fastest growing with reportedly the billionth person born there in 2010 ( With half its population being under 25 now and if the trajectory remains the same, Africa would be host to 29 per cent of the people in the world of that age group. What does this mean for the foundations of food security (adequate, nutritional, and available food)? It means that Africa must encourage its youth to see its food security issues as vital to its development in the first instance and be a exporting Continent of key staples in the second instance. Most African countries remain major importers of key staples such as rice, maize and wheat, and are not self-sufficient in cassava, cow peas and other commodities. In addition innovation and integration needs to enter the picture more as both exports increase and crop self-sufficiency issues are addressed. Alternative crop uses must also be sought. For example, Nigeria is host to a cooperative based cassava-to-glucose agribusiness (a non-traditional use of cassava) which supplies glucose not only in Nigeria but to other countries in the West African sub-region.

With this large population, and the sheer size of the continent, the affects of poor development in food security policy going forward will likely hit Africa harder than any other region. But solutions need to be thoughtful and forward leaning. So what to do?

a.) Focus on training this cadre of youth to see farming in a new and different way, along with a different approach – organized small scale farmers (cooperatives or groups of cooperatives) that produce quality and improved yields in environmentally sustainable ways (i.e. waste management, using solar and wind energy, etc.).

b.) Work with these new farmers and current farmers (particularly women) to develop more innovative technology to improved crop rotation, hybrid seeds, water harvesting and climate change sensitive irrigation techniques (drip, solar driven, etc) to assist with aquaculture and ;

c.) Seek integrative solutions connecting food security to other quality of life issues such as health (food storage and safety) and education. Some of the best small scale projects in sub Saharan Africa are examples in Republic of Congo, Benin, Tanzania, and Nigeria and several other places where health issues of cooperative farmers are addressed along with food safety and storage or when small gardens are developed for schools, ensuring a healthy school time meal for students, teachers, and mothers who bring their children to school. Benin’s Songhai Integrative Projects uses appropriate technology, bio-gas and environmentally-sound approach to cooperative farming and small scale agro-industries (

The outcome: Reduced hunger, along with poverty reduction can occur as increased, quality yields are sold at market (or exported regionally) for income that can be used to address other quality of life issues (i.e. paying for school fees, housing and health services).

With proper planning, the right democratic leadership, and transparent resource management, forward leaning innovative food security policy, and integrative agriculture inputs and outputs, Africa’s young population over the next decades can contribution enormously to addressing both continent-wide and global food security issues as many of the world’s future farmers are right now today on the Continent.

*I define and use the term impact indicators as those issues that directly affect positively or negatively food security such as population, water, land, and economic growth/development.

**N.B. Use of the term Africa and all stats refer to sub Saharan Africa.